Self powered wrist extension orthosis
Thesis DisciplineMechanical Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Engineering
One of the most devastating effects of tetraplegia is the inability to grasp and manipulate everyday objects necessary to living an independent life. Currently surgery is widely accepted as the solution to improve hand functionality. However, surgery becomes difficult when the user has paralysed wrists as is the case with C5 tetraplegia. The aim of this research was to develop a solution which provided controlled wrist flexion and extension which, when combined with surgery, achieves a 'key pinch' grip. This particular grip is critically important for people with C5 tetraplegia as it is used for countless grasping activities, necessary on a day-to-day basis. A systematic design process was used to evolve the solution to provide controlled wrist flexion and extension. Concept brainstorming identified four alternative solutions which were evaluated to find the preferred concept. The chosen solution was called the Self Powered Wrist Extension Orthosis, more commonly referred to as the 'orthosis'. This concept contained a shoulder harness which provided both energy and control to the wrist harness, which in turn changed the wrist position. The orthosis was developed with the use of a mathematical model which theoretically predicted the functional performance by comparing the required force needed to move the wrist harness to the achievable force supplied by the user's shoulders. Using these parameters, the orthosis was optimized using the matlab Nelder-Mead algorithm which adjusted the wrist harness geometries to maximize the functional performance. A prototype was constructed and tested with the help of two participants who when combined, achieved an average of 18.5° of wrist rotation. The theoretical model however predicted an average range of motion of 28.4°. The discrepancy found between the theoretical and experimental result can be contributed to incorrect assumptions in the theoretical model. This included unaccounted friction and inaccurate modeling of the orthosis dynamics. The feedback from potential users of the orthosis was enthusiastic and encouraging especially towards the simplicity, usability and practicality of the design.